Is Kyrie Irving worth keeping?


courtesy of Creative Commons

courtesy of Creative Commons

By Aidan Crooke, Beacon Correspondent

If you’re the Brooklyn Nets’ general manager Sean Marks, you’ve likely got a lot on your plate right now. You’ve fired Head Coach Steve Nash and promoted Jacque Vaughn in his place, two of your top players have decided to stay with the team despite levying trade requests in the offseason, and now one of those two players—Kyrie Irving—has drawn a spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

In the wake of Ye’s recent anti-semitic comments, Irving tweeted a now-deleted tweet which linked to an anti-semitic film. According to the New York Times, the 2018 film relies on anti-semitic tropes about Jewish people lying about their origins and denying the Holocaust.

This wouldn’t be the first time Irving has faced controversy during his time with the Nets. In September, ESPN’s Nick Friedell reported that the Nets All-Star guard turned down a four-year, $100 million extension due to his unvaccinated status. This affected his availability in Brooklyn over the past two seasons due to New York City regulations on vaccinations in arenas such as Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center, the latter of which is the Nets’ home stadium.

It’s straightforward to say Irving has been on a downward spiral over recent years, from his support of the “flat Earth” conspiracy theory to his endorsement of an anti-semitic film with an apology that even NBA Commissioner Adam Silver deemed as “unqualified,” Irving’s baggage off the court is starting to catch up to his performance on the court. His behavior should’ve been handled immediately, but Marks gave him chance after chance for nearly four days before finally suspending him for a minimum of five games while he goes through a remediation process. 

It should not have taken four days before disciplinary action was taken. Irving’s suspension should have been immediate and the remediation process should have been formulated while the suspension was underway. 

The beginning of Irving’s demise can be linked to the outrage over his stance on the COVID-19 vaccine. Irving labeled vaccination mandates as “one [of] the biggest violations of human rights in history,” in a tweet posted in September. Labeling vaccine mandates as “human rights violations” while still being optional is a slap in the face to people who have lived through actual human rights violations—especially those who lost their lives in these violations. 

Irving chose to remain unvaccinated and faced consequences—he couldn’t play at the Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden. There are still 30 other venues that allowed him to play while their city’s mandates were in effect, including Chase Center in San Francisco and Boston’s TD Garden. That’s a lot of games Irving could still play, and each one could have helped him make a boatload of money to fulfill his commitment to the team. 

Irving has faced many consequences for his anti-semitic comments, including the suspension of his signature shoe deal with Nike. Nike also pulled his latest signature shoe model, the Kyrie 8, from a release date as a result of his insensitive and damaging remarks. The price he’s paid? According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, his deal with Nike is worth $11 million a year. If combined with his Nets’ contract value, Irving’s already out $12 million a year, as his suspension from the Nets would cost him $1.25 million over the course of five games. 

Two days after his antisemitic tweet, the Nets played the Chicago Bulls, where Irving’s performance was significantly less than what is expected of a former champion and perennial All-Star candidate. From Oct. 21 to Oct. 31, Kyrie was a guaranteed 25-point scorer. On Nov. 1 against the Bulls, he scored only four points on two for 12 overall shooting and missed all six of his shots from three-point range in his 33 minutes of play. Irving has missed the last three games as a result of his suspension from the team.

Irving is in his contract year with the Nets. He didn’t sign the aforementioned contract extension with the Nets due to his unvaccinated status, and now it seems his recent acts will harm his potential in the free agency market. Some teams are looking for a point guard to build around, but it’s unreasonable to believe any general manager in the league would consider picking up the phone to call Irving. 

The level of bad press Irving brought on himself is his own fault, and it’s hard to see whether his apology and remediation process for his suspension will actually result in a change. This isn’t just a suspension or a simple short-term consequence of Irving’s actions, it’s a reminder to everyone—especially athletes with a platform on social media: be mindful of what you post and what the consequences could be. It could cost you your career.